BP internal investigation report leaves some things unsaid

Oil giant BP laid much of the blame for the rig explosion and the massive Gulf of Mexico spill on workers at sea, other companies and a complex series of failures in an internal report Wednesday.
By David S. Hilzenrath
Sunday, September 12, 2010; 9:06 AM

Delivering the results of BP's internal oil spill investigation last week, chief investigator Mark Bly said he found no sign that the company cut corners to save money.

"My view is that we didn't see any indications that support that," Bly said.

But BP's voluminous report on the causes of the April 20 explosion in the Gulf of Mexico on the Deepwater Horizon rig does not include information brought to light in other investigations highlighting actions that might save time or money.

One example involves BP's use of a gooey chemical mixture in the well during a pivotal pressure test that preceded the blowout.

The report says that the mixture could have clogged a line involved in the test, masking the fact that hydrocarbons were flowing into the well.

The material that went into the mixture - more than 400 barrels of products called Form-A-Set and Form-A-Squeeze - was left over on the rig after the well drilling. The material was designed to plug leaks, such as cracks in rock formations.

Under environmental protection standards, if BP used the leftover material in the well, it could then dump the product directly into the gulf instead of transporting it to shore for disposal as hazardous waste, Leo Lindner, a drilling fluid specialist for contractor M-I SWACO, testified at a federal hearing in July.

During the April 20 pressure test, BP used it as a "spacer" to separate seawater from dense drilling fluid called "mud" in a column of fluids pumped into the well.

"They didn't want to have to dispose of them," Lindner said of the leftover Form-A-Set and Form-A-Squeeze.

The BP report does not discuss the disposal advantage that Lindner described. The report said the decision to use the material as a spacer "was driven by the opportunity for the beneficial re-use of the materials."

Bly told reporters that using such a mixture was "not an uncommon thing to do."

Lindner cast the choice in a different light.

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